by Jeff Mills

With Mississippi Mills on the cusp of creating a “comprehensive” Transportation Master Plan and Active Transportation Master Plan we must ask this question. Can we engineer walking back into our lives? Walking advocates like Jacqueline Kennedy of Green Communities Canada and Walk Friendly Ontario raise their voices all the time to the traffic planners, busy doing their automobile volume counts, to say, “don’t forget the walkers!” And even in the context of active transportation, those who speak for pedestrians have their voices mingled with those speaking for cyclists. Mix in the voices of those who see these modes of transport as secondary to the interest of cars and it’s hard to discern the important message regarding this, our earliest and most important method of getting around. On two feet!

In 2014 Mississippi Mills received an honourable mention in Share the Road’s Bicycle-Friendly Communities Program. With the completion of these master plans and some movement on the town’s part to build appropriate infrastructure, we are a shoe-in for bronze or even silver level Bicycle-Friendly Community. How about we strive to be a walk-friendly community as well? WALK Friendly Ontario is there to help us!

Walk Friendly Ontario

Below is an abstract of a presentation Ms. Kennedy gave at “Walk 21” the 15th annual International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities held this past October in Sydney Australia. The link will take you to the Walk 21 conference website. http://www.walk21sydney.com

CAREFREE IN A CAR-FREE WORLD?

Walking…the forgotten face of transport

Jacqueline Kennedy

We are built to walk, but are our communities built for walking? Walking is as natural as breathing, but we take it for granted. As a form of transportation, it has been neglected and virtually engineered out of our lives in favour of faster and more expensive transportation infrastructure. Yet walking is the primary mode of transportation for those too young or too old to drive, persons with disabilities, persons of low income, and those who choose not to drive, which makes up a significant portion of our populations.

WALK Friendly Ontario (WFO) is a recognition program that encourages municipalities to create and improve the conditions for walking by awarding Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum designations. Using a comprehensive framework of indicators for walkability based on planning and the “5 Es”, (Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation), municipalities benchmark their current status and measure progress over time. The program gives walking a prominent profile in community planning and design, and encourages municipal governments and their community partners to set targets for ongoing improvements. As communities strive to achieve higher awards, the built environment is transformed to support walking – a sustainable and independent mode of transportation.

In the fall of 2013, the first WALK Friendly Community designations were awarded to five municipalities in Ontario.

Ontario Municipalities that have earned a designation will be highlighted and specific examples will be provided of the work that they are doing to ensure that walking is not lost in the transportation mix.

Conference participants will learn about a program that:

  • Rewards Municipalities as a way to encourage their support for walking and walkability,
  • Provides links to resources to assist communities in continuously improving the conditions for walking,
  • Helps to build stronger relationships with stakeholders around walkability,
  • Results in a great internal resource documenting all walking related programs, projects, and policies in one place, and
  • Results in a prestigious designation that can be used as a valuable asset in attraction & retention strategies.

WALK Friendly Ontario is a program of Canada Walks, a division of Green Communities Canada. The designation helps to achieve the vision of Canada Walks for a country where everyone can enjoyably, easily and safely walk to school, work, play, shopping and transit.